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Poll: The Difference Between WoW Classic and Retail WoW

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So, what is the difference between WoW Classic and Retail WoW? This is a question that has come up often within the WoW community.

To put it simply: WoW Classic is the original version of World of Warcraft from fifteen years ago. Before the Cataclysm, the old world not only looked different but had a unique story, as whole quest chains were changed during the Cataclysm expansion.

Many in the community refer to the original version of World of Warcraft as Vanilla WoW. The original game only offered access to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. You were visiting Azeroth before the opening of the Dark Portal, and before the Lich King was defeated in Northrend.

Now, what is Retail? Well, Retail WoW is a Battle for Azeroth. Basically, Retail WoW is whatever expansion we’re in while playing the current game. We’ve had seven expansions, and now have access to many different continents within the game world. So Retail is where we are in the present-day.

If you’ve never played Vanilla WoW you might be wondering why fans want to revisit the original game. You’d need to understand first the fundamental differences which make Vanilla WoW and Retail WoW two different games.

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What Is The Difference Between WoW Classic and Retail WoW?

WoW Classic

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WoW Classic is a faithful recreation of Vanilla WoW from fifteen years ago before the Cataclysm. World of Warcraft back then was a lot rougher around the edges. There was no Looking for Group (LFR, LFG, etc.).

Looking for Group is the automated Dungeon Finder tool we have in Retail WoW. The purpose is to help you find a team of random strangers to run group content like dungeons and raids.

In Vanilla WoW, if you wanted to do a dungeon you had to get a group together on your own. Then you and your group had to trek to the dungeon in the game world. Dungeons today can be done within half an hour, but in Vanilla WoW if you didn’t set aside at least two hours you weren’t going to get much done.

The game didn’t show you where to find your quests on the map. Quests were written for you to pay attention to the directions. So if a quest told you to find the quest giver in a hut on the hill headed east, then that’s where you were meant to go. There were no helpful dots on your mini-map, and half of the quests in your log couldn’t be tracked.

When a quest is tracked you can see a helpful yellow dot with a number on your mini-map. The game is telling you where to go to complete the quest.

Retail WoW has a quest tracker today. This means you can open a list where all of your quests are written. When you click on the mini-map at the top right corner of your screen, the map will have a helpful yellow dot showing you where the quest is located.

Sharding and cross-realm didn’t exist, so you only could interact with people from your server. This created a sense of community where everyone knew each other. Basically, your server was like a small home town. You knew who the good people were and who the bad apples were.

Player vs. Player (PvP) combat was more common. The Horde and the Alliance crossed paths as they adventured. Skirmishes were common and friendly rivalries were strong.

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WoW Classic Continued

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Professions actually mattered because the game was harsher. If you didn’t learn some kind of skill you weren’t going to make much gold. Also, you needed your professions in order to create armor and weapons. For example, a Hunter could become an Engineer to save gold on ammo and to create their own guns.

Azeroth was a dangerous world. Technically the game world was smaller because you could only adventure to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, but because you had no mount until level 40, the game felt larger and more dangerous.

It certainly didn’t help that mobs could chase after you. Good luck running by a group of murlocs without aggroing the whole village. If you died, you had to run back to your corpse, and the cemetery might be far away.

Mastering your class was a must. Each class was crucial to certain encounters, and some race and class combinations were better than others. If you didn’t put in the effort to consider abilities from all three talent trees, to learn your rotation, and to have the right armor, you weren’t going to be a good asset to your team.

The game worked at a slower pace then. Leveling could take weeks or months. If you saw a player with an epic looking tier armor set, you knew they worked hard. There was no transmog so you could tell if someone had on great gear.

Retail WoW has tramsog. This means you can customize your armor to look the way you want. In Vanilla WoW you couldn’t do this, so if your character looked like a colorful clown you were stuck that way.

Players looked forward to the companionship that Vanilla WoW provided. Players had to learn to rely on each other because Azeroth was a dangerous world. If they didn’t group up for quests, or help each other gear, then the game wouldn’t have been as fun.

Vanilla WoW was home.

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What Is The Difference Between WoW Classic and Retail WoW?

Retail WoW

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Retail WoW is the modern version of World of Warcraft. It’s a modern style of gameplay. Most players prefer instant gratification. In order to keep up with changing norms, Blizzard has implemented quality of life changes in modern WoW.

These changes include LFR (Looking for Raid group), cross-realm, sharding, flight, and much more quality of life enhancements. Technically these ideas aren’t all bad. For example, the flight is incredibly fun and a convenient way to travel within a large game world. But, for WoW Classic enthusiasts, quality of life improvements like flight and LFR have ruined the original WoW experience.

Sharding is like a new digital copy of a zone. So you could be standing in Stormwind, but if you’re sharded to another version of the city, you may see different players.

Cross-realm is when you can see players who are from a different server than you. Your server is the version of World of Warcraft you play on. North America has about 250 servers alone, and that’s not counting other regions like Oceanic. On retail, I play on the Garona server, but sometimes I’ll see another player with a dash besides their name. The word after the dash is their server.

Vanilla WoW forced adventures to bond. Retail WoW places more emphasis on speed and convenience than relationships. A player can now travel the whole game world in a matter of minutes rather than hours. You can also level from 1 to 120 without speaking to another player if you choose.

Professions are now obsolete because we no longer use them. There are a few things certain professions do provide though. If you’re a non-healing class you may want to make or purchase potions, or if you’re a raider you might want to create or purchase a feast. But in general, Retail WoW doesn’t require that kind of skill today.

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Retail WoW Continued

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One major difference between WoW Classic and Retail WoW, is the map lays out the quests. You can skim the quest and still know where you’re going. Completing group quests aren’t required. Most groups are friendly but after the boss encounter is over, everyone goes their separate ways.

Retail WoW is visually stunning. WoW Classic runs on the Legion engine and tries to replicate the Vanilla WoW look. The game looked darker back in the day. Weather effects like rain were more pronounced. Retail WoW has muted many weather effects, but the visuals are incredibly beautiful and are worth viewing in a 4k resolution.

Another difference between WoW Classic and retail WoW, is that voice acting is awesome in Retail. On many quest chains now, you’ll hear your favorite heroes speaking to you as you journey. It gives the heroes more life and it’s lovely to hear their voice.

Class identity isn’t as strong as it was in WoW Classic, but there are certain enhancements worth nothing. If you play a Hunter you don’t have to buy ammo now, and leveling up a Warrior is a lot faster than it was then.

Retail WoW is a sign of how the gaming industry has changed.

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Difference Between WoW Classic and Retail WoW? Is WoW Classic Better?

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So, what is the difference between WoW Classic and Retail WoW? And, which one is better?

Honestly, that answer depends on the player. Some people prefer a harsher game. They look forward to forming shared bonds with players who’re on the same adventure as them.

Retail WoW is great for today because we’re busier. The fast-paced nature of the game has helped Retail WoW stay competitive in today’s changing environment.

To know if WoW Classic is right for you, try it out. It’s hard to say which play style a gamer will enjoy better. Being confused about a quest isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Not everyone wants to be ganked (PvP term for when another player attacks another unsuspecting player) as they adventure. It’s up to you to decide which style of the game matters to you.

Before you go

Do you prefer WoW Classic or Retail WoW? Please feel free to leave a comment.

WoW Classic botting has gotten out of control. What can Blizzard do to stop bots in WoW Classic? World of Warcraft is fun to play, but what’s the fastest way to level in WoW? Learn more about leveling quickly here. Shadowlands is currently in beta. Please feel free to check out my impressions of the Shadowlands beta.

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4 thoughts on “Poll: The Difference Between WoW Classic and Retail WoW

  1. Hey,
    I just wanted to say that you made me read everything on your post, article or whatever is called! Really good writting and really fascinating! Thank you! I am not a really big fan of WoW but certainly I have some questions that I would like to have the answer! And what you have written was absolutely what I needed! Thank you!

    1. Hi Bennito, thank you for leaving a comment. I’m relieved that my blog post was able to help. If you ever have any questions regarding World of Warcraft feel free to send me a message. I’ll try to answer your question to the best of my ability. Have a fantastic day! ^_^

  2. I tried retail and classic last week, after not playing wow since a week in 2012, and a month or so in 2006. I gotta say Classic was good fun, it was slow and brisk and ruthless, which is exactly what made Morrowind so much fun back in the day. Then I shifted to Retail and it was so obnoxious! Icons look like a mobile game, the hand-holding bombards you with tips and pointers and the UI is horrendously ugly. It’s one of the noisiest and ugliest UI’s I have ever seen! Loud, ugly and obnoxious. Classic is better by far, except for one thing: it forces you to play with other people. I hate playing with people. Game needs a single player mode.

    1. Good morning Lars, thank you for leaving a comment. Classic and Retail certainly feel like two different games today. When Blizzard first announced WoW Classic I was excited because I remember playing the game back then. I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed old school WoW until Classic was released last year. One thing I love about Retail WoW is the fact I can play alone. When I was introduced to WoW I played with friends and family. As years have gone by, none of my friends play the game any longer. So I play with my brothers sometimes but they don’t play as often as I do. ^_^

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